There’s a plethora of ideas out there to write about. We come across them every day. That little snippet of a conversation at the grocery store. The way the sun glares through the winter trees. The sound of the tires on the highway. The feel of a well worn flannel shirt. There’s a story in each of those ideas, but sometimes your mind just comes up blank.
That’s when you know, it’s time to fill the well.
The creative well—or the muse as some people call it—is the repository of ideas that creatives dip into when they write a story, paint or create any type of art. An idea or segment of the idea can be used over and over, but these sparks dry up or get stale and then the author or artist is left staring at a blank page struggling to move forward. Sometimes it appears in the form of writer’s block or lack of inspiration. Other times, an author will look back on their work and realize they have been producing the same thing over and over using a formula that works but isn’t appealing anymore. Even worse is when it’s lack of desire to create anything at all.
But having the creative well run dry isn’t the end of the world. It can be fixed, but you’ve got to put in a little bit of effort.
Stepping out of your comfort zone
One way to refill that creative well is to break out of your comfort zone and do something different. Many times we get in a creative rut because we do the same thing over and over. Schedules are nice, but they can become counterproductive to being creative.
Once a month try something new.
- A new restaurant featuring a cuisine you’ve never tried in town? Try it out!
- Never been to a musical or opera? Well there’s a wonderful opportunity to enrich yourself.
- Always wanted to learn to make pottery? See if there’s a pottery store nearby.
- Read something out of your usual genre.
- Go to a sports event.
- See what kind of history your area has and visit the sites.
Trying something new often breaks through that creative slump and refreshes you with new ideas. See something interesting? Try it out!
Great ideas often come unexpectedly and two of the biggest places where great ideas strike are: in the shower and while exercising.
While exercising, you are often concentrating on the physical movements of the body. That leaves your subconscious room to put ideas together. Sometimes it comes up with surprising combinations that you would never come up with during your normal writing sessions.
Exercising doesn’t mean going to the gym every day though. You can reap the same benefits by taking a walk, doing a workout video or working out in your home. While you exercise, don’t focus on your idea, concentrate on moving your body and let your mind put the pieces together.
Meet the great outdoors
While we are touching on exercise, another great way to filling the creative well is to get outdoors. It’s easy and in many cases (though not all) it’s free. Many local parks have walking or hiking trails where you can get some exercise and fresh air. Most states have state run parks and some have national parks. These offer unique opportunities to experience nature up close and personal (though hopefully not dangerously).
Some unique opportunities include: caves, canyons, wildlife, lakes, rivers and streams. Each place has unique features and educational experiences. If you find you like being outdoors, try hiking, fishing and photography. You can even begin to geocache if people in the area participate. There’s lots of wonderful things you can do outdoors. Hopefully, when you come home you will feel exhausted yet refreshed.
Okay so this one is probably the least appealing for many. Writers tend to be loners who spend a lot of time playing about with ideas that no one else has access to. Many are introverts who feel a great deal of stress when around other people. Yet, social interactions can lead to some great projects and new ideas.
Having other writers to talk to about projects can sometimes restart and refresh your ideas. Joining a writer’s group in person or even online can help you refine your ideas. Discussions are often a great way to get excited about writing again when you feel blah about everything. A critique partner might find where you are stuck and give you suggestions on how to fix it. Other ideas might come from other people tossing out ideas they just can’t use.
But not all interaction has to be with other writers. It’s a great idea to go to a backyard barbecue and just hang out with friends. Going to a family gathering might reveal some interesting ideas for characters as people talk about history. A lecture or a local discussion on a pending issue might jumpstart creativity even if it has nothing to do with what you write. Take a few hours away from the computer and relax and have some fun.
Taking a break
Sometimes none of these options work. You’ve found out you didn’t like kimchi but loved opera. You’ve walked at least three days a week for the past six months and happened to lose some pounds. You learned that fishing takes a lot of patience and always bring sunscreen. Even joining a local writer’s group hasn’t helped you be productive. You are stuck.
Maybe it’s time to take a break.
Pressure and stress are two factors that affect creativity. Sometimes it’s positive such as looming deadline; other times it’s not. Often it builds until the well dries up to a trickle then nothing at all. And the more you try to open it up the worse it gets.
Taking time to step away from your work for a short time really is okay. Sometimes it’s the only thing that works. But don’t stay gone for long. The longer you are away from your work, the harder it is to get back into it. Take just enough time to get the energy going again and jump back into it.
Ideas are infinite, yet sometimes our ability to use them isn’t. Everyone’s well runs dry at some point. At times you need to step away and experience other things to help you fill the creative well. While we hope you have feel that kind of emptiness, we do hope our suggestions are useful.
Thanks for reading and if you have other suggestions, please feel free to comment below.